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Israel’s shameful abuse of civil rights
Saudi Gazette Newspaper Sunday, February 17, 2013
By Ray Hanania
The idea of hunger strikes as a form of nonviolent protest was immortalized by Mohandas Gandhi against the British occupation of India. His hunger strikes captured the hearts and minds of the West, including Americans.
Gandhi’s longest strike was 27 days. Previously, the longest hunger strike had been 97 days by an Irish revolutionary who was protesting the British occupation of Ireland. But the longest hunger strike took place in 1929, when two of Gandhi’s disciples refused food for 116 days.
India eventually became independent in 1947, one year before independence was denied to Palestine, which was occupied by foreign immigrants from Europe who established a Jewish state in a land that was overwhelmingly non-Jewish.
The battle to liberate Palestine, now occupied by Israel, and re-establish the rights of non-Jews has continued ever since; violently in most instances by both sides, but in many instances nonviolently, as well.
Hunger strikes that last 50 days or more usually result in the death of the striker. That’s why it is remarkable that a new hunger strike record is being set by a courageous Palestinian, Samer Issawi, 34, who was born in Issawiya, a Palestinian village located in the demilitarized zone around Mount Scopus which was militarily occupied by Israel in 1967.
Issawi’s hunger strike began on August 1, 2012 and has continued for more than 200 days. Hunger strikes are considered good stories by the mainstream Western media, except when they involve Palestinians.
Issawi’s hunger strike has received little media coverage. It’s been written about by some pro-Arab activists, but their leaders are so inept at communications and public relations that what they have written has received little attention.
It’s a reality in today’s world that civil rights cannot exist without professional public relations. The expansion of media communications beyond the biased and controlled borders of the mainstream news media to include the Internet, news web sites, blogs, Twitter and social media forums has been a double-edged sword for today’s causes.
Today’s media is not like that of 1929. Although they are in an Israeli political headlock, activists can share their words in columns and blogs and circulate them on their social networks on the Internet.
The problem is that their social networks are limited, limited to supporters familiar with Israel’s brutal policies and war crimes. The writings are rarely read by the vast majority of people who live in an Israeli-manipulated stupor of factual manipulation, fictionalized narratives and one-sided stereotypes.
The audience that needs to hear Issawi’s story cannot hear it, because Israel is so good at controlling the media and because the Arabs are incapable of telling their story in an effective manner. That’s why Issawi’s hunger strike has broken a record but no action has been taken, a startling record that should be acknowledged in the civil rights world but is instead ignored.
Despite their cruelty as colonialist occupiers, the British people of the past had a conscience that most Israelis of today clearly lack. Gandhi’s hunger strikes and nonviolent protests inspired the victory of the Indian people. Gandhi’s story was broadcast around the world at a time when the media was undeveloped. One compelling story of human willpower in the face of military might moved the world to sympathize with the weak.
Today’s media is so much larger and more sophisticated. With so many voices, so many tragedies, so many stories, and so many writers, so little is really being absorbed by the public. The Internet “noise” has blurred the voices of justice making it easier today for the pro-Israel movement to tighten its media censorship.
Issawi is doing his part. But his Palestinian and Arab brethren are not. In fact, Issawi’s cause is being hurt by the ineffective Arab activists who are driven by hatred and emotion more than justice. They exploit the tragedy of Palestine and the stories of its victims and use them as bludgeons to batter Israel’s image, rather than using them to win sympathy.
They cannot stop themselves from hating because their anger is so great. The suffering validates their vengeance. Every Palestinian who dies becomes a martyr for their ineffective, failed cause. The rejectionists want everything or nothing. They’re willing to see every last Palestinian die rather than accept compromise, even if it means achieving nothing.
Issawi has righteousness on his side. He is a dissident and civil rights activist, sadly one of thousands put in Israel’s brutal military prison Gulag. Held without trials or even charges, they are denied justice and live in the shadows ignored by the mainstream media and civil rights groups.
Issawi’s message is a powerful peaceful nonviolence that if handled properly could sway world sympathy and force the world, including Americans, to see Israel in its true light as a brutal occupier which denies civil rights to non-Jews. But the cause has been embraced by a poisoned coterie of Arab fanatics whose hatred is so strong that they would rather lose everything than compromise for something.
Meanwhile, the moderates who are the Arab majority have surrendered to the cacophony of the extremist voices and are incapable of coming together out of sheer exhaustion. Moderate Arabs have been on a mental hunger strike from hope for more than 65 years.
Until the fanatics are silenced and the moderates find their voice, the Samer Issawis of the world will find themselves setting world records for the longest hunger strikes without results. That is the true tragedy.
— Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com
- Palestinian rally for hunger striker turns violent (sfgate.com)
- Are They Just Waiting for Samer Issawi to Die? (counterpunch.org)
- #PalHunger | MK Tibi says Issawi risks death in Israeli jail (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- PressTV: Israeli troops attack Palestinian protesters, 150 injured (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
This post has already been read 17 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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